Robert McLaws: Windows Edition

Blogging about Windows since before Vista became a bad word

November 2005 - Posts

  • Changes to Windows Vista CTP Program

    Well, it's the end of November, and it's pretty safe to say there won't be a CTP this month. I'm in Vegas celebrating with my girlfriend, so I missed the big news of the day. tells us, however, that Microsoft is no longer committing to a monthly CTP schedule. They'll keep doing CTPs, but they're not able to commit to a schedule. They also said what had been rumored for a while... that Beta 2 will be next year.

    This was something I've expected for some time. The Visual Studio team has far more experience with CTPs, and installing a new Windows build one a month has been daunting. I for one am glad that 5259 will probably not be the next CTP... I haven't had the best experiences with it. My experiences with Vista as a whole have been pretty bad, so I'm still waiting for that magic build that loves my hardware. Will it be in December? One can only hope...

  • Windows Vista November CTP Available to TAP Customers

    The Xbox 360 isn't the only thing out today. Microsoft just posted the Windows Vista - November CTP (Build 5259) to Windows Vendor Program partners. Normally, that would mean that it should be aveilable to everyone else by the end of the week. However, with the Thanksgiving holiday at the end of the week, it might not be out till early next week. I'm still waiting for confirmation.
  • Windows Vista Launch Date Revealed

    BusinessWeek recently obtained a copy of an internal blog post from Windows VP Chris Jones. In it, he addresses an issue of low morale lately.

    "If you want my personal accountability, I will not take a bonus if we don't ship Vista with high quality and the soul intact by August 31st, 2006. If there is more I can do, let me know."

    The article continues that, based on the date Windows XP RTMed and the date it shipped, we should see Windows Vista on shelves by late September, early October of next year.

  • Lose VPN Connectivity Lately? Are You Testing Windows OneCare?

    Yesterday, I suddenly lost VPN connectivity in the middle of the day. I was dropped off the connection, and couldn't reconnect to my client's ISA 2004 Server. I spent at least an hour racking my brain for the problem. The server logs kept saying that GRE packets weren't getting through, but port 47 was open, and the server configuration hadn't changed.

    So I started looking at the client machines. My business partners and I all connect the same way, and none of us could connect, so I started looking for a common thread. Then I realized that I just put Windows OneCare Live on their machines, and I had been running it on my own for some time.

    It turns out, the latest update to Windows OneCare Live added some new options to the Firewall. One of them is to block certain types of system packets. For some reason, even though I had an existing (and active) VPN connection, GRE packets were switched off.

    To turn them back on, double-click the "green one"...

    ...then "View or change settings", then "Firewall", then "Advanced Settings", then "Ports and Protocols". Once you get there, check the GRE box, and OK out of everything. You should then be able to reconnect to the VPN as before.

    Hopefully the Windows OneCare Live team will update their updates process to check to see if the Network Connections folder contains any VPN connections, and adjust the Firewall accordingly. Alternatively, the first time I activate a VPN connection, the system should automatically open up the capability of receiving GRE packets. At any rate, hopefully that helps anyone who recently experienced this issue.

  • Yes Virginia, Microsoft IS a Dinosaur

    Yesterday, the CEO of, Mark Benioff, called Microsoft a "dinosaur". While I balked at that statement at first, after some discussions with colleagues today, I now agree, but for reasons totally different than what he said.

    My worldview of Microsoft is really of three distinctly separate organizations: Windows & Office, Developer Stuff, and Everything Else. When it comes to transparency in Microsoft, the Developer Division is like glass; they have it nailed down. A perfect example of this is the announcement of Visual Studio service packs on the day they announced the Visual Studio 2005 RTM. Now, initially I thought that the announcement was a very bad decision. It could potentially reduce adoption by businesses who don't believe Microsoft ships quality software.

    But it was a good move after all. It helps businesses make solid decisions, plan their deployments, etc. And it was extremely transparent, which at the end of the day, is better for everyone.

    However, the Windows & Office teams are still mired in all sorts of secrecy. They don't talk about ship dates, they don't talk about features... they don't talk about much of anything publicly until after the fact. And in that respect, they ARE still a dinosaur.

    Controlling the Message
    The Developer Division needs to school the Windows and Office teams on how to talk to customers. They still don't get it yet. Just because Microsoft has a PR firm, doesn't mean that they can't control the message. The problem is, their silence allows the media to control the message, and the media is not always objective.

    Example: Say Microsoft was to say the following:

    Windows Vista is coming along nicely. We're shooting to have another CTP out by the 22nd of November, and we're shooting to have features X, Y and Z in it.

    Sweet. I know what it's gonna do, and I know when it's coming. Now lets say the 20th comes around, and someone from the team posts this:

    We've run into some issues with Feature Y, and we want to deliver this to you in this build. So we're going to have to push the release date back to the 27th so we can do some extra testing.

    Most people would say "Microsoft wants to make sure that, even though these aren't "beta" releases, I still get decent code that doesn't break too much. That's cool, take an extra week to get it done." The media might say something different, but that's their opinion.

    Or, Microsoft might say this instead:

    We've run into some issues with Feature Y, but we want to deliver this build on time. So we're going to have to disable Feature Y for now, but we're going to try really hard to get it finished in time for the next build.

    Most people would say "That's alright. Thanks for letting us know about it, and we'll look forward to seeing it in the next build." Yeah, sure. Some nutjobs will go crazy, try to put words in MS's mouth, etc. But who cares, cause you'll have facts, publicly available, from the source of the decisions.

    But the Windows team doesn't do that. The Windows Division management doesn't blog. They don't tell anyone outside the company. I'm NDA'd up to my eyeballs... and pretty sure that Microsoft owns my firstborn child... and I still can't even get someone to tell ME when somethings gonna ship.

    By not talking about it, Microsoft opens itself up to the rampant, baseless speculation that comes from the likes of former NDA information leaker Paul Thurrott and others in the media. When 'Type A Techies' have nothing to take about, they're going to make crap up, so they can stay relevant. Why is such a huge organization letting other people control their message?

    The competition on the Operating Systems and Productivity Suite fronts are vastly different then they were even 5 years ago. Linux is always going to be playing catchup to Windows for consumer software, because Windows is the de-facto standard for consumer computing. I hardly know of any consumers running OpenOffice at home... most get Microsoft Office bundled in their Dell or Gateway computer.

    And so what if someone else was to try and do it first anyways? The point is to do it better, not to do it first. If MS Legal gets the patent process started earlier in the game, and part of the patent process is based on who is first to demonstrate it, then why not show it off earlier? At least let people know what's going on with the stuff that's already been talked about.

    Maybe you guys in Windows management should put as much time into making your division transparent as you are into making your UI transparent. The division is like the window chrome is in 5231... translucent, but still not completely clear. You guys have done a great job so far, but don't kid yourselves into thinking you're there... you've got a LONG way to go.

    The point of the matter is, Microsoft is the leader in Operating Systems and Productivity software. SO LEAD. Take charge, get out there, and be open about it. It's OK if companies copy the idea... they're going to have to so they can stay competitive anyways. I'm not saying to ignore them, but I am saying to bump us customers to the top of the priority list, and worry about them second. Let US know what's going on... they'll find out sooner or later anyways. Get control of your message, and stop letting other people tell your story.

    End Rant.

  • OT: Text-to-Speech Software?

    I try not to post personal things too much, but I thought I'd get feedback from people who might have had experience with this.

    You might remember that my sister Meghan was in a very serious car accident the Friday before PDC 2005. She almost died, but fortunately, she's almost fully recovered, and I've been posting about her progress on her website. She had a severe neck injury which severed her windpipe from her voicebox, and she won't be able to talk for at least a year, until they can attempt some reconstructive surgery.

    Now, she's getting a PocketPC with some really cool text-to-speech software in it next month... but in the meantime, is there another program that she could use on her laptop to type words and have the computer read them back, besides the Speech control panel in Windows, that might be good?

    Ideally, it would be able to:

    • Allow her to assign phrases to specific buttons
    • Be pretty fast
    • Wouldn't cost much (a donated license even would be awesome)

    Any help any of you could provide would be greatly appreciated. I'd like to have something for her before the end of the weekend. Thanks!

  • Understanding Windows and Office Build Numbers

    Jensen Harris explains the Office build process. I'm fairly certain that Windows works the same way... hopefully someone on the Windows team can come explain it for us.
  • OT: Xbox 360 Zero Hour

    Registration is live! Sign up to win tickets to "Burning Man Meets E3".
  • Windows Vista - What's Left In 2005?

    On Monday, Microsoft shipped .NET 2.0, Visual Studio 2005, and SQL Server 2005. This was a huge milestone for the Developer Division, and indirectly for the Windows division as well.

    As I discusssed last year in my article "The Death of the Software Wave", much of what Microsoft wanted to do with early versions of Longhorn was built on these technologies. One of the reasons it was going to be nearly impossible to deliver Longhorn in that form was because these technologies were interdependant, and changing frequently. If you think of it as building a house, it would have been like trying to frame up walls and put up drywall at the same time you're pouring the foundation.

    I'm going to make some predictions on what you can expect for the rest of this year. It's based on information I'm privy to, plus fact-based inferences. Mary Jo calls it "reading the tea leaves". Through the next bit, I'll denote anything that's fact and anything that's not.

    Already Updated... Already
    Already, we've seen teams release newer versions of previously released betas, updated to use the RTM version of the .NET Framework. the C# LINQ project, and Windows Workflow Foundation, and ASP.NET "Atlas", to name a few. You can expect that every team shipping code on .NET 2.0 is in the process of (or has completed) their upgrade to the final bits as well, and more "beta updates" should be hitting the wire over the next few days.

    Windows Vista - November CTP (Client & SDK)
    Based on ship dates of the last two CTPs, the Windows Vista November CTP is due any day now. Given the fact that 2.0 has shipped, it is safe to assume that the final .NET 2.0 bits will be installed by default in the next CTP of Windows Vista. Actually, Rob Releya confirmed this information for us here and here. You can expect that you'll be able to install Visual Studio 2005 on this CTP as well, and based on Rob's comments, there should be a matching WinFX build, an SDK, and probably an update to the WinFX Extensions for Visual Studio 2005 as well.

    WinFS - Beta 1 Refresh/Beta 2
    I haven't heard anything official about this yet, but I'd be willing to bet that the WinFS team will either ship a refresh of Beta 1 that works with the RTM version of SQL Server 2005 and .NET 2.0. Whether this happens before the end of the calendar year or not, I'm not sure. I'm expecting to see something on Channel 9 or the WinFS blog in the near future.

    Office, Max, & More
    Office 12 relies heavily on .NET 2.0, so the RTM means that Office 12 - Beta 1 is one step closer to reality. The Microsoft Max team seems pretty agile, so I would expect that they'll push an update out as soon as the matching WinFX build is public.

    Windows Vista - December CTP?
    No word yet on whether Windows Vista - Beta 2 will come before the end of the year. My experience tells me that Beta 2 will be the first thing out the gate in 2006, so I'm not sure whether or not there's going to be a December CTP. If Beta 2 is indeed next year, then I think Microsoft would put out another CTP. But of course, I can't get this confirmed yet. The fact that I'm even posing options means that I don't have access to a stratight answer ;).

    There you have it. This is my view on what's coming from Microsoft before the ball drops on 2005. What do you think?

  • What's Next for Windows Vista Development

    Soma just posted an in-depth report on what's next for Visual Studio. It's an interesting read for anyone looking at what's coming in the Orcas timeframe.